Vegan rapper Grey made waves at the end of last year when his Thanksgiving rap and video went viral. The catchy rap was partly inspired by a clip by gospel singer Shirley Caesar, whose words (beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes) form the backbone to the song.
The Florida native (who now lives in Atlanta) has been making music for many years, releasing his first LP UnDaEsTiMaTeD under the name Lil Grey in 2001. His second Grey Skies followed in 2004, before he took a hiatus from music to play collegiate football and study for a B.S in marketing. It wasn’t until 2010 that Grey returned to his musical ambitions, moving to Maryland in 2011 to start working the music circuit in Baltimore and DC.
Another record – N:Ow or N:ever – was released in 2013, receiving regional radio play for his single For Da Money. Grey moved to Atlanta and toured locally, gaining recognition and success for his performances. In November 2016, he released his now famous Thanksgiving Rap.
Vegan Life was delighted to catch up with Grey, to talk about veganism, artistry, and how that rap has changed his life.
Can you tell me a little bit about why/how you became vegan? How long have you been vegan?
About 10 months ago, my girlfriend introduced me to it. She’s a huge animal lover and would often send me (animal rights charity) Peta videos to watch. She then decided one day she was making the transition into being plant-based. She would whip together these delicious vegan plates and share them with me.
Next thing you know, I was right along with her. By the third meal, I was convinced, ‘you mean to tell me this isn’t meat, it’s much healthier for me, and it’s easy to make?..Sign me up’.
“Once I started to understand what’s in the food that we eat and the effects it can have on the body, in addition to the obvious animal cruelty behind it — it was enough for me to start a new lifestyle.”
Was it an easy transition? Do you have many vegans in your family/friends/community?
For me I think it was a pretty smooth transition – especially as I had my significant other on board and motivating me as well. I guess my friends and family couldn’t believe that I would give up meat at first. However, as time went on, they saw I was serious and they supported me. I don’t believe I have any vegans in my family, but have had some family members considering better eating options after the video. I do know a lot of amazing vegans though.
Can you tell me a bit about your musical background? How long have you been making music? How would you define yourself musically?
I’ve been making music for a long time. I started creating my own music at the age of 13. Musically I like to create transparent music – music that comes from the soul.
Your Thanksgiving rap went viral – were you expecting this kind of response? What were you hoping for when you created the music and video?
Definitely wasn’t expecting that kind of response. I didn’t even like the video to be honest. I almost deleted it.
I normally did freestyles in the car every Friday using the hashtag #GreyCantFreestyle and this was just another freestyle. I knew something was different though about an hour after I posted it when I received way more likes and comments than usual. Once it went viral, I told myself I have to write a second verse and we have to shoot a video for it ASAP. The video was a lot of fun.
Lots of people have written about you, as well as sharing the video. How does that kind of attention feel?
It feels pretty cool. It’s funny how something so small and unexpected, can become bigger than you imagine and ultimately change your life. It’s crazy and awesome at the same time. I am very humbled by the entire experience.
What inspired the rap? Do you have a particular creative process? How long does it take to create a track from conception to recording?
I saw the original video on Instagram and instantly loved the beat. I couldn’t stop playing it. I told myself I have to spit something on this. As far as creating music, it all varies. Some songs take hours, some take days. It all depends.
Now the Thanksgiving rap has been so successful, do you think you will change the focus of your music, and use it more as a vegan outreach tool?
My music has always been a reflection of myself and what I’m feeling or going through at any given moment.
I think this experience will definitely add to the content of the music including veganism. As I evolve as a person, so will I as an artist.
How important do you think the arts – including your own work – can be in educating and inspiring people about animal exploitation?
I think it’s extremely important to use your given talent to express yourself and educate others about various social issues and current events.
As far as a musician, I will always create music. I look forward to creating new content as I evolve and life changes. As far as being a vegan, I hope to use my transition and experience to encourage others to do research on the foods they put in their body and look into healthier food options.
Find out more about Grey at his website officialgreymusic.com